Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday declared a Los Angeles-area natural gas leak that has been sickening area residents an emergency, and vowed to protect public health and safety.
Southern California Gas Co, which operates the well that is the site of the underground methane leak, is trying to stop it by drilling a relief well to reach a damaged pipeline, then inject fluids and cement into it.
The governor’s office said in a statement it was taking steps to ensure that the utility identifies how it will stop the leak if the relief well fails to seal it – or if the existing leak worsens.
The leak was discovered on Oct. 23 at a well used for gas storage in Aliso Canyon just outside Los Angeles’s Porter Ranch neighborhood. It forced thousands of residents to relocate over the holidays.
The leak, which state officials have said accounts for a fourth of California’s greenhouse gas emissions from methane at its peak, is believed to have been caused by a broken injection-well pipe several hundred feet beneath the surface of the 3,600-acre (1,457-hectare) field.
People in the area have complained of such ailments as headaches, nausea and respiratory irritation from the odorants added to natural gas, Los Angeles County officials have said.
The governor’s office said it had taken steps to coordinate the local, state and federal response to the leak and stop it as soon as possible.
The emergency declaration by Brown, a Democrat, follows calls by local officials in Los Angeles for increased state regulation of gas storage facilities.
“This proclamation recognizes the prolonged and continuing duration of the Aliso Canyon gas leak and the requests of residents and local officials,” governor’s spokesman Evan Westrup said in an email.
The governor earlier this week met with Porter Ranch residents and toured the site of the leak.
(Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)